Female age has been shown in multiple studies to be a predictor of poor reproductive success with assisted reproductive technology (ART) resulting in decreased fertility rates, increased miscarriage rates, and decreased embryo implantation rates. This decline in female reproductive function can be explained partly by an increase in chromosomal anomalies observed in oocytes and embryos.
As we age, many aspects of our body and health change. This includes many subtle but important changes in the reproductive process for women. The impact of age on fertility is increasingly significant as more women choose to delay childbearing until later in life.
The most important factor for all women and their partners to understand is that a woman’s reproductive potential declines with age. When this decline begins, often around age 30, most women do not even realize that it is happening. Even though a woman may continue to have regular menstrual cycles until she reaches menopause, the ability to have children may be lost 7 to 12 years prior to menopause. Nearly 1/3 of women age 35 or older will have problems with fertility. And more than 70% of women over age 40 are unable to become pregnant naturally. In addition to increased difficulty with fertility, a woman’s chance of having a miscarriage also increases with age.
The main factor associated with infertility in women is egg quality. As women age, their egg quality declines. The process of declining fertility is universal and increases with age. However, the timing of this phenomenon is variable and may begin to occur in young women. Therefore, even young women need evaluation for decreased ovarian reserve.
Any patient who has tried to conceive a baby for a year without success should consult a physician. If a woman is over age 34, she should consult a fertility expert after trying to conceive for six months.